Apr 17, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.

This Ph.D. program is one of the most successful programs in the nation. The majority of students are supported by their own companies, by faculty research grants or by the department through teaching assistant fellowships. The latter option is specifically tailored to students interested in obtaining a faculty position after graduation.

Admission Requirements

  1. An M.S. degree in mechanical engineering or in a closely related discipline from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association or completion of an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. master’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing.
  2. Excellent academic performance in all completed coursework, with a GPA of at least 3.500 on a 4.000 scale.
  3. Submission of a complete application, including a statement of purpose, official transcripts for all previous undergraduate and graduate studies, and payment of appropriate application fee.
  4. Official GRE graduate school admission test quantitative score must be equal to or better than 80th percentile.
  5. Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can judge the applicant’s potential success as a doctoral student.
  6. All international students whose native language is not English and who have not graduated from an American university must comply with the university’s English Language Proficiency requirements.

Direct Admission into the Ph.D. Program

The Mechanical Engineering Department offers direct admission into its doctoral program for outstanding students with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. This special “fast-track” program allows a student to apply up to 18 credit hours from the coursework hours requirement to the dissertation hours requirement, while retaining the 78 credit hours required past the Bachelor’s degree. The minimum number of dissertation hours remains at 24 credit hours. A student admitted into this “fast-track” program must successfully complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework and a minimum of 24 credit hours of dissertation with the total coursework and dissertation hours reaching a minimum of 78 credit hours. The expected program of study for most students in this track is 36 credit hours of coursework and 42 credit hours of dissertation. A minimum of 36 credit hours of the coursework must be from regularly scheduled, graduate-level courses, and cannot be one-on-one, directed study type courses. Additionally, students must satisfy the core course requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

Admission Requirements

This fast-track program is open only to outstanding students who have demonstrated excellence in their undergraduate (UG) career and who are well prepared to excel in their graduate coursework and research. Therefore, admission into this program shall be considered on an exceptional basis.

To be considered for admission to this program, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. An undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from a reputable program,
  2. An UG GPA of 3.5 or higher,
  3. A GRE quantitative score of 85% or higher,
  4. Strong letters of recommendation supporting the student’s direct admission into a fast-track program, and
  5. A written statement of purpose that projects maturity, purpose, commitment, and a demonstrated standard of excellence.

The Lyle School will consider outstanding applicants who have specifically applied to the fast-track program and will determine their admission into this program. A direct admission student who earns a cumulative GPA of less than 3.5 on their core courses or fails to complete the core requirement in two successive regular semesters is suspended from the fast-track doctoral program and switched to the regular Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering program. No readmission into the fast track program is allowed.

Degree Requirements

In addition to meeting the Lyle School of Engineering requirements for the Ph.D. degree, candidates are required to satisfy the following:

  1. The successful completion of eight graduate-level courses (24 credit hours) beyond the master’s degree.
  2. Core course requirement: All incoming Ph.D. students will be required to complete a core course requirement within the first two terms of admission to the Ph.D. program.
  3. Students must take both core courses for their major area and select one core course from two of the remaining topic areas for a total of four core courses. Students who have completed all or a portion of the core course requirement at SMU prior to admission to the Ph.D. program (e.g., as part of an M.S. degree plan) are only required to fulfill the remainder of the core course requirements. Deviations from the core course requirement due to limitations of course offerings must be approved by the supervisory committee and the department chair within the first two terms of study toward the Ph.D. degree.

Core Courses:


Any 6000-level or above mathematics course may be taken to satisfy one of the two minor core areas. A grade of B+ or better is required for the Math course to count toward the minor core requirement.

Preliminary Exam:

Students who obtain a cumulative GPA of less than 3.50 in the core courses will be required to take and pass a written preliminary exam. This written exam will consist of three parts, individualized for each student and covering the two major courses and the minor course with the lower grade. The Preliminary Exam will not cover any Mathematics courses since a grade of B+ or better is required for a Math course to count as a minor core course.  

Students who fail the exam covering the major courses is suspended from the Ph.D. program. A student who fails the exam covering the minor courses will be allowed to retake the exam for the failed section(s) only once, within one month of completing the original exam. A student who fails this second examination is suspended from the Ph.D. program. A student who has been suspended from the Ph.D. program may, at a future date, submit an application for readmission. The Department expects that such an application would include tangible evidence that significant and measurable growth has taken place in the student’s field of study since the time of suspension, and that the student therefore now possesses the necessary background and skill set to succeed in their chosen field.

Qualifying Exam (QE):

All Ph.D. students will be required to pass a qualifying exam consisting of written and oral components. The exam must be completed within 18 months of completion of all required coursework for the degree. The format and requirements of each component are described below.

Written Component:

The ME Department will administer the written component of the QE every fall and spring semesters, over a two-day period toward the middle of the semester. The Written QE will include written exams from each student’s declared major area of specialization.

  1. Dynamics and Controls:
    • Controls
    • Dynamics
  2. Mechanics and Manufacturing:
    • Continuum Mechanics and Elasticity
    • Advanced Mechanics of Materials
  3. Thermal-Fluids:
    • Fluid Dynamics
    • Heat Transfer (including Thermodynamics)

A student who fails the Written QE will be allowed to retake it once, in which case the Graduate Committee will decide whether the student must retake all or only a portion of the subject area exams. The student must retake this second Exam during the immediate next regular semester after the semester during which the failure occurred. A student who fails this second Exam is suspended from the Doctoral program.

Oral Component:

Upon passing the Written QE, the student will be ready to take the Oral component of the QE. The purpose of the Oral component of the QE is to assess a student’s ability to engage in a discussion about their area of research, and preparation to engage in their proposed dissertation topic. The Oral QE must be completed within 12 months of successfully passing the Written QE. If a student fails the Oral Exam, the Supervisory Committee may recommend a re-examination, subject to approval by the Department Chair and the Associate Dean, only in those cases in which the Supervisory Committee believes the student has the necessary potential but needs some additional time for preparation.

Field of study:

If a student changes their area of research significantly, or if significant changes are made to the composition of the supervisory committee, the student may be required to repeat all or a portion of the qualifying examination at the discretion of the current supervisory committee.


All Ph.D. students will be required to complete and successfully defend a dissertation. The dissertation must be original and of a scholarly level and must have the potential of being published in a leading technical journal in the field of interest.